'Mission,' 'Sherlock' lead yule frame over last year's

Headed into the Christmas frame, some bizzers worried that six wide releases would cannibalize each other at the holiday box office.

That didn’t happen — at least, not entirely.

Thanks to hearty four-day returns from top players “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol” ($46.2 million) and “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” ($31.8 million), domestic box office outstripped last year’s long Christmas weekend by approximately 8%. Even overseas B.O., which faced theater closings in Europe on Saturday and Sunday, contributed solid perfs, led by “Ghost Protocol’s” $43 million estimated three-day take.

“Ghost Protocol,” which bowed Stateside last weekend exclusively at large-format houses, has cumed $78.6 million; “Sherlock,” in its second frame, reached $90.6 million, making it the season’s biggest domestic grosser as of Monday.

On a global scale, “Ghost Protocol” has cumed $218.7 million (with 45 overseas territories in play), while “Sherlock” has tallied $136.3 million, having been released so far in only 21 markets outside the U.S.

Most distribs predicted a sizable Monday uptick vs. the previous day’s grosses — typical of the day after Christmas, when kidpics see the largest bump at 60%-70%, while grosses for all other titles usually increase around 30%.

Family films continued to jostle in a crowded field.

Fox’s “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked” scored an estimated four-day gross of $20 million, bringing its total Stateside tally to $56.9 million. “Chipwrecked” outdid the market’s other kidpic, Par’s “The Adventures of Tintin,” which bowed to estimated $16.1 million in four days. In North America, “Tintin” has cumed $24.1 million, including Canadian grosses, with $240 million internationally going into the weekend.

“Now you’re headed into the best week of the year in terms of moviegoing,” said Par vice chairman Rob Moore.

Fox distribution exec Chris Aronson also was enthusiastic about the playability of pics in the market. “Everything went up more than expected on Sunday, with our best days ahead of us,” Aronson said.

Among the holiday’s other wide releases, Fox’s family drama “We Bought a Zoo” opened Friday with an estimated take of $15.6 million through Monday.

Sony’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” posted an estimated $19.4 million in four days, with a domestic cume of $27.7 million. Sony launched the R-rated film latenight Tuesday.

“Tattoo” came in softer than expected, while Disney-DreamWorks’ Christmas Day entry “War Horse” more than doubled industry expectations, grossing just north of $15 million for two days. Disney is predicting the film to stay flat from Sunday to Monday, given that “War Horse” isn’t strictly a family film. Couples made up two-thirds of the pic’s opening-day aud, according to the studio.

Also bowing on Christmas Day, Summit’s sci-fier “The Darkest Hour” saw a more modest — but still in line with expectations — $5.5 million in two days. Pic received a less-than-desirable C+ CinemaScore rating.

Holiday B.O. feast

Even though overall box office was up over the same frame last year, some bizzers are hesitant to use the comparison, as Christmas Eve and Christmas day fell on different days this year.

But this year’s four-day holiday stretch also was slightly better than in 2005 — the last time Christmas Eve fell on a Saturday.

As expected, box office dropped considerably on Christmas Eve. But stellar Sunday perfs starting midday helped keep conditions healthy. “Mission: Impossible” saw a massive Saturday-to-Sunday uptick, 120%, though “Sherlock” did even better, up 147%, as did “Zoo” (139%) and “Dragon Tattoo” (125%).

“When you see that kind of number on Christmas Day, it really shows how well the movie is playing across all audience spectrums,” Moore said. “I think what this weekend shows is that audiences agreed with us: The movie plays and looks amazing in Imax, which helped kickstart a great domestic run.”

Naysayers suggested that the early Imax run would deflate open ing grosses for “Mission,” though even in Imax the film posted a solid second-week showing, with $7.3 million in four days for a cume of $23 million, or 31% of the total.

“We’re excited by the fact that Imax is doing well, but even more, it’s encouraging knowing that the early Imax window has helped the film distinguish itself over the holiday period,” said Imax prexy Greg Foster.

Par’s “Tintin” was up 56% on Sunday vs. the previous day; “Tintin” skewed toward men, at 55%, with a more even split between auds over and under 25.

“War Horse,” which nearly eclipsed both “Tintin” and “Zoo” with just two days of grosses, collected 56% of its opening from auds over 35. Families accounted for 26% of the pic’s debut.

“The film has this really nice blend of upscale and heartland theaters,” said Disney distrib exec Dave Hollis. “With films that are in the awards conversation, this is the kind of start you hope for,” Hollis added.

“War Horse” received an overall A- CinemaScore appraisal, as did “Mission” and “Tintin”; both “We Bought a Zoo” and “Dragon Tattoo” scored an A.

As for “Dragon Tattoo,” Sony distrib exec Rory Bruer described the pic as “a very adult, R-rated film” but added that it’s “a film in it for the long haul.” Last year, Par’s adult crowdpleaser “True Grit” scored a four-day opening of $32 million and went on to cume north of $170 million domestically. Whether “Dragon Tattoo” can display similar legs will depend partly on markets between the coasts.

Boxing Day presents

Par was looking to take advantage of Boxing Day on Monday in the U.K. and Australia by launching “Mission” and “Tintin” in those territories.

In Australia (where grosses were already available early Sunday), Par reported that “Tintin” grossed a solid $1.5 million.

Sony’s “Arthur Christmas,” in its seventh frame in the U.K., saw a remarkable 91% hike to nab the market’s top rank with $4.1 million. Pic has cumed $31 million there out of its total $90 million overseas tally.

Brazil and Mexico contributed No. 1 debuts for “Mission,” which grossed $2.8 million and $2.5 million in those markets, respectively.

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